Julie Foster, 30, Sunderland tells her story...
Watching telly with my kids Aaron, then 5, and Grace, 3, suddenly, I couldn’t feel my left leg.
I was losing sensation in my entire left side.
At hospital, a CT scan revealed I’d had a stroke.
‘But I’m only 25, fit and healthy,’ I cried to my husband Stephen, 34, shocked.
The consultant booked me in for thrombolysis treatment, for drugs to dissolve dangerous clots and improve the blood supply to my brain.
But through my scans, doctors also discovered I’d likely had a minor stroke years earlier without even realising.
‘I remember losing my sight momentarily while I was pregnant with Grace,’ I said.
Back home, I regained feeling in my left side. Given blood-thinning medication, I made a 97 per cent recovery.
But a week on, I discovered I was expecting again.
Thankfully, the pregnancy went well, and we were thrilled when Oliver arrived on 8 November 2013, weighing 5lb 8oz.
Now I could focus on getting better while raising the newest addition to our family.
But, falling pregnant for a fourth time, in August 2015, things weren’t as smooth.
When Stephen and I arrived at hospital for the 12-week scan, I collapsed in the car park.
Unable to speak or move, all I could do was look on in terror as nurses rushed to my aid.
Not again, please no.
Though I hadn’t had a stroke, doctors explained I’d suffered a transient ischaemic attack (TIA), which produces stroke-like symptoms.
I soon regained control of my body, but felt weak and sick.
But a month on, mid-housework,I felt a headache coming on.
‘I’m going for a lie down,’ I said to Stephen.
Except, I then felt familiar symptoms, this time on my right.
Blue-lighted to Sunderland Royal Hospital, the stroke caused significant brain damage, wiping out 45 per cent of the right side. This affects my cognitive skills, like memory and movement.
Finally, linking the strokes to my pregnancies, doctors diagnosed antiphospholipid syndrome (APS), a rare autoimmune disorder.
It causes an increased risk of blood clots, more so during pregnancy when oestrogen levels increase, thickening the blood.
The realisation hit me hard…
‘Pregnancy could kill me,’ I cried, as we made the heartbreaking decision to terminate.
Now, almost two years on, I still have limited movement in my right arm and need a wheelchair for long distances.
My memory and hearing have been affected, too, and I speak with a slur. I was also diagnosed with epilepsy in August 2015. Thankfully, medication stopped my migraines.
But my kids keep me going. I’m determined to be the best mum I can be for them.
Recognise the signs of a stroke… F.A.S.T.
Face: Look at the person’s face and ask them to smile. Has their face fallen on one side?
Arms: Ask the person to raise both their arms and keep them there. Are they unable to raise one arm?
Speech: Ask the person to tell you their name, or say ‘hello’. Is their speech slurred?
Time: If you spot any of these signs, always call 999 immediately.